Ardie Savea to skipper the All Blacks in Bledisloe Cup Test in Melbourne

Ardie Savea NZ v SA Rugby Championship 2023 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy

Ardie Savea NZ v SA Rugby Championship 2023 – PA.jpg Credit: Alamy

New Zealand number eight Ardie Savea will take over his team’s captaincy for their Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Saturday, after regular skipper Sam Cane was sidelines through injury.

Savea will lead the side for the fifth time in his career after Cane was ruled out due to a neck strain sustained in the victory against the Springboks in Auckland on July 15.

Dalton Papali’i comes into starting XV

Cane’s absence means Dalton Papali’i comes into the All Blacks’ run-on side for the 14th time in his Test career, while Luke Jacobson is added to the matchday 23 as back-row cover.

The rest of the starting line-up is unchanged from the previous game against South Africa, although further alterations have been made to the replacements bench.

Experienced international campaigners Anton Lienert-Brown (centre) and Sam Whitelock (second-row) are set to make their first appearances of the Test season.

Meanwhile, Ofa Tu’ungafasi (front-row) returns after playing the opening Test against Argentina and Cam Roigard is in line to make his Test debut as scrum-half cover.

Despite the setback of losing first choice captain Cane, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is looking forward to the Test.

“This is a special Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test, which doubles as the opening Bledisloe Cup clash of the year,” he said. “This trophy means so much to both countries and we expect a massive challenge on Saturday.”

Saturday’s encounter will be the first All Blacks Test at the MCG since 2007. With over 80,000 spectators expected to be in attendance, it is tipped to be the biggest Bledisloe Cup crowd since 2009 when 80,228 fans turned out to watch at Homebush.

Wary of Australia

Although the All Blacks are unbeaten after two rounds of the Rugby Championship, Foster is not underestimating the Wallabies.

“As the final Rugby Championship Test, there is much at stake in this game,” added Foster. “We have learned a lot from two stern Tests so far this year and there is huge excitement about playing Australia at this iconic ground.”

New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea (c), 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot

Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Caleb Clarke

Date: Saturday, July 29

Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground

Kick-off: 19:45 local (11:45 BST, 10:45 GMT)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Christophe Ridley (England)

TMO: Tom Foley (England)

READ MORE: Wallabies v All Blacks: Five storylines to follow ahead of the Rugby Championship clash

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